Auckland Council is consulting on proposed changes to waste disposal in the super city, introducing a rates-based charge for waste instead of the current pay-as-you-throw system, and a curbside food waste collection.
Senior Lecturer Jeff Seadon, a waste minimisation expert in the School of Future Environments, says while the focus on food waste shows the council is focusing on the big issues in waste minimisation, there are several areas of concern with its proposal.
“First and foremost, creating less waste should be everybody’s aim. So, when I look at examples of people already working really hard to minimise their waste, who currently might put out a bag of waste every six weeks, or their bin out once a month, paying a rates-based charge based on volume will financially disadvantage them over our current pay-as-you-throw schemes.
“In fact, the proposed rates allow between 50 – 100% more waste to be disposed of for between 20 – 24% more cost, which could lead to more waste being disposed of, rather than encouraging waste minimisation.”
The Council’s proposed plans would also effectively create a monopoly in waste disposal, preventing private waste companies from offering competing curbside collections systems.
“Both the Waste Minimisation Act and the Commerce Act are very clear on creating monopolies,” says Dr Seadon. “A Council monopoly of household waste disposal will not serve Aucklanders well.”
Dr Seadon says the introduction of curbside food waste collection, which has been trialed in parts of Auckland, is a great step. “Household food waste is about 45% of our rubbish bin, so tackling that is really important. However, the Council is sending this waste by truck to a commercial composter 260km away in Reporoa, which seems to fly in the face of the Council’s own decarbonisation plans.
“Ideal waste minimisation would see that food waste being composted within Auckland, and the compost and resultant methane from the composting being used in glasshouse production within the region. Pukekohe, Auckland’s vegetable garden, seems a good alternative to Reporoa.”
Auckland Council’s consultation on rates-based waste charges remains open until 28 March.